Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

April 25, 2010

Q: What is a Platypus? A: an American Eustonite

Filed under: Academia,cruise missile left — louisproyect @ 6:44 pm

Chris Cutrone: Platypus éminence grise

Originally I had no idea that Platypus was some kind of organized group on the left. I regarded it as an electronic magazine after the fashion of Metamute, another oddly named left outlet that favored heterodox Marxist analysis written by young professors and graduate students. I suppose that if I paid closer attention to their url (platypus1917.org) I might have figured out that their ambitions were somewhat larger. Ah, 1917, the year that amounts to the birth of Christ for a rival sect.

It was only after I began following a dust-up between Platypus editor Chris Cutrone and just about every other subscriber on Doug Henwood’s Left Business Observer mailing list that I figured out that Platypus was a tendency on the left trying to save us from ourselves through “education” rather than by example through action. The debate was prompted by an interview conducted with Platypusers Chris Mansour and Ian Morrison by WBAI board member Mitchell Cohen, a bearded 60s conspiracy-mongering radical who could not be more unlike than these brash Young Turks. The two young men have cultivated the art of sounding outrageous, so necessary in raising one’s profile on a left filled with ambitious attempts at carving out a market niche. They say, for example, that Naomi Klein has mounted a “rightwing critique of Milton Friedman”. I have my own problems with Klein, but this analysis is frankly stupid.

The discussion about the Platypus interview began appropriately enough on April Fool’s Day, but Chris Cutrone did not enter the fray until 5 days later when he offered up an introduction to Platypus that includes the following account of its origins:

We started as a reading group in Chicago in 2006 and formally constituted ourselves as an organization, starting to hold our fora and publish our paper in 2007. We’ve had the following panelists or published writings by: Ernesto Laclau, Moishe Postone, T. J. Clark, Hal Foster, David Harvey, Stephen Duncombe, Danny Postel, Michael Lowy, Peter Hudis, Kevin Anderson, Andrew Kliman, James Heartfield, David Black, Michael Albert, Paul Street, Ervand Abrahamian, Hamid Dabashi, Leo Panitch, members of the ISO, Solidarity and the RCP, and worked closely with the new SDS, the (various) Marxist-Humanists, the immigration rights movement, and others. We have included various student activists on our public forum panels, and have the plurality of our published writings have been by undergraduate students.

With respect to “theory”, Cutrone supplied the following:

A few of us are current or former students of Moishe Postone; a couple of us have also been mentored by Adolph Reed. These are our two single most influential living figures for our thinking, but a couple of us are also former members of the Spartacist Youth Club when we were in college almost 20 years ago. My personal academic specialization is Frankfurt School Critical Theory, Adorno and Benjamin in particular. The group started with several of my students asking for an extra-curricular reading group on the contemporary relevance of F.S. critical theory for politics. One of our very first readings was Featherstone/Henwood/Parenti’s “Action Will Be Taken” critique of the “anti-war” movement (2002).

Having never read Moishe Postone, I can’t comment on his value but I have to wonder whether Adolph Reed’s reputation is well served by this. Reed, an African-American political science professor, was a member of the Trotskyist movement around the same time as me and has evolved a workerism hostile to “Black identity” politics with some affinities to Walter Benn Michaels, as well as to the batty Spartacist League but with considerably more intelligence. With respect to “Action will be taken”, this is a very useful article, but I doubt that the authors would be happy with the placing of scare quotes around anti-war movement. More about this anon.

Finally, they claim responsibility for developing a new brand of Marxism that will differentiate them from other groups on the left, namely a synthesis of Lenin, Luxemburg and Trotsky with the Frankfurt School, a rather unlikely combination:

We’ve offered, for our own self-understanding, what we call a “synthesis” of the “2nd International radicals” Lenin, Luxemburg, and Trotsky with F.S. critical theory, especially by Benjamin and Adorno, but also by the early Lukacs and Korsch, considering all of these to be the most interesting developments of Marx’s work in theory and practice. We think that what Korsch termed the “crisis of Marxism” 1914-23, was never adequately resolved but rather Marxism disintegrated and degenerated, with negative consequences for the Left, “Marxist” or otherwise.

When I read this, I could not help but think of Perry Anderson’s reflections on Karl Korsch in his 1976 “Considerations of Western Marxism”. Korsch and other Marxist academics were appalled by the failure of socialist revolutions to triumph after 1917 and retreated into the ivory tower in order to mount philosophical investigations largely disconnected from the class struggle. It was an ideological current that reflected disappointment and pessimism, understandable given the horrors of Stalinism and fascism. Since the Platypus group is following very much in the footsteps of Western Marxism (but without its intellectual prowess), one can only surmise that something traumatic must have occurred in their lifetime. What could be their version of Stalin’s rise and the failure of Communist Parties to resist Hitler?

Apparently, the anti-globalization protests up to and including Seattle left a very bad taste in their mouth:

Reenacting not only the defeat but the defeatism of the 1960s Left, the Seattle protesters no longer even bother with the old talk about students or youth as a new “revolutionary force.” Nor do these new would-be radicals require elaborate rationalizations of their failure. Theirs is a disarmingly frank acting-out of a discontented middle-class youth, for whom the schedule of international trade meetings takes the place of rock concert tours as the site for a peripatetic anti-authoritarian subculture.

And speaking of the 1960s left, the Platypus people take a dim view of the SDS protests that radicalized so many college students and shook American society to its foundations. In a chastened and rueful mood, they find much to support in the elderly Adorno’s disgust with Columbia University’s protestors:

Borrowing from Freudian psychoanalysis, Adorno and his colleagues (Marcuse and Reich) interpreted the constitution of the “authoritarian personality,” characterized by “narcissism” and sadomasochism, as evincing a regressive “fear of freedom.” Thus, faced with “political hysteria” Adorno observed, “Those who protest most vehemently are similar to authoritarian personalities in their aversion to introspection.”

Having lived through this period, I can state that many journalists shared Adorno’s critique but without his anti-capitalist cachet. A week did not go by without some pundit blaming the Oedipal Complex for SDS misbehavior. Silly me always blamed street protests and “trashing” on outrage over napalming peasant villages rather than a desire to have intercourse with one’s mother.

If you’re starting to get the picture that these Platypus people are a bunch of stuffed shirts with a kind of visceral distrust of anything too militant, you haven’t seen the worst of it. Unfortunately, their journal is filled with musings on foreign policy that reek of the Euston Manifesto. After a leisurely walk through all 17 issues, I am appalled by what I found there.

Ian Morrison, one of Mitchell Cohen’s interviewees, wrote an article dated March 1, 2008 titled Ba’athism and the history of the Left in Iraq: Violence and politics that chided Ramsey Clark for acting as Saddam Hussein’s lawyer. Hadn’t Clark read Kenan Makiya, the ex-Trotskyist whose Republic of Fear had the last word on how dastardly Saddam was? Implicitly someone as wicked as Saddam did not warrant Clark’s services, a view widely held by liberals at the time. Platypus somehow feels the need to remind us of Saddam’s wickedness as if we were all members of the Workers World Party:

Kanan Makiya’s groundbreaking study of Iraqi Ba’athism, Republic of Fear, documents instances of institutionalized violence used to terrorize Iraqi society. In the 1998 introduction, Makiya recounts a law passed in the chaotic aftermath of the first Gulf War mandating that the state brand the mark of an X on the forehead of repeat offenders of crimes such as theft and desertion; the first offense of such crimes was punished by amputation of the hand.

The article does not mention that Makiya was one of the major “left” voices urging war on Iraq in 2003 and it is surprising that given all the opprobrium Makiya has earned in the past 7 years that Platypus still takes him seriously. Edward Said, among others, had his number in 2002:

In and of himself, Makiya is a passing phenomenon. He is, however, a symptom of several things at once. He represents the intellectual who serves power unquestioningly; the greater the power, the fewer doubts he has. He is a man of vanity who has no compassion, no demonstrable awareness of human suffering. With no stable principles or values, he is typical of the cynical anti-Arab hawks (like Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, and Donald Rumsfeld) who dot the Bush administration like flies on a cake. British imperialism, Israel’s brutal occupation policies, or American arrogance do not detain him for a moment. Worst of all, he is a man of pretension and superficiality, flattering himself on his reasonableness even as he condemns his own people to more travail and more dislocation. Woe to Iraq!

Written somewhat ostentatiously in the name of the Platypus Historians Group (as if they could be seen in the same light as the storied Communist Historians Group that included Hobsbawm et al), there is an article titled Catastrophe, historical memory and the Left: 60 years of Israel-Palestine that unconscionably puts Palestinan and Israeli violence on the same plane:

Neither the endless “peace process” nor Katyusha rockets shot by Islamic fundamentalists at working-class Israeli towns point towards an emancipatory politics.

It should me mentioned at this point that the call for “emancipatory politics” serves as a kind of mantra on the Platypus website although I have never been able to figure out what it means. In Marxist terms, emancipation means ending class rule and producing for human need rather than private profit. For these upstarts, it strikes me as having much more of the libertarian esprit that typified Frank Furedi’s group in Britain. It should therefore come as no surprise that James Heartfield, the last Furedite claiming allegiance to Marxism, contributed once to Platypus. Despite my overall hostility to Spiked online politics, I’d have to say that Heartfield took a step down when he became associated with these characters. Even if he agrees with Cutrone and company that the “left is dead”, Heartfield would never offer up their kind of Eustonite droppings.

As mentioned above, Cutrone employs scare quotes when it comes to the antiwar movement. Once again, in 2008, he had recourse to this device in an article titled Iraq and the election: The fog of “anti-war” politics. In it he finds it useful to put scare quotes around the word imperialism as well. In the world of the Platypus, all attempts to describe Bush’s war as imperialist are wrong. Indeed, the cause of the war was not a grab at resources and any other geopolitical assets but Saddam’s recklessness:

At base, the U.S. did not invade and occupy Iraq to steal its oil, or for any other venal or nefarious reason, but rather because the U.N.’s 12-year-old sanctions against Saddam Hussein’s Baathist government, which meant the compromise and undermining of effective Iraqi sovereignty (for instance in the carving of an autonomous Kurdish zone under U.N. and NATO military protection) was unraveling in the oil-for-food scandal etc., and Saddam, after the first grave mistake of invading Kuwait, made the further fateful errors of spiting the U.N. arms inspectors and counting on being able to balance the interests of the European and other powers in the U.N. against the U.S. threat of invasion and occupation.

Let’s not beat around the bush, dear reader. The notion that Saddam’s “spited” the U.N. arms inspectors belongs on Fox News rather than a self-described Marxist website professing “emancipatory politics”. Quite frankly, I have to wonder if some of the good people who have taken part in panel discussions with Platypus people have an idea that such raw sewage is floating in their canals.

Finally, it has to be mentioned that Platypus interviewed two people who symbolize Eustonite politics to a tee. The first is an interview with the Canadian blogger Terry Glavin who is described as “an outspoken critic of the anti-war movement’s call to withdrawal [sic] foreign troops from Afghanistan”. I would have described Glavin as a toxic Islamophobe but that’s just me.

Here’s one of the questions that Platypusite Andony Melathopoulos asks Glavin:

In your Democratiya [a Eustonite publication now absorbed by the awful Dissent Magazine] piece you describe the forthcoming Obama presidency as articulating the words that Afghans want to hear most: “We will not leave you. We will not betray you. We will not abandon you”. What is it about Obama’s approach that makes you think that the U.S. will finally make a serious sustained effort to rebuild Afghanistan?

When I read the business about a “serious sustained effort to rebuild Afghanistan”, I felt that I had wandered into the Jim Lehrer News Hour on PBS.

And even more outrageously, they still find it useful to regard Christopher Hitchens as part of the left in a 2009 article (Going it Alone: Christopher Hitchens and the death of the Left) long after anybody–including Hitchens—would have put him in such company. It flatters Hitchens in practically every paragraph:

With the familiarity he possessed of its prevailing intellectual habits and dispositions and also of the actual composition of the various popular front organizations that sprung up to oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Hitchens possessed unique resources to undertake a thoroughgoing critique of the contemporary Left.

In the weeks and months following 9/11, Hitchens’s criticism of what passes for the Left resounded loudly on both sides of the Atlantic. Whether in left-leaning organs such as The Nation and the Guardian or in more mainstream outlets like the Los Angeles Times and The Independent, in article after article Hitchens drove the point home that the issue of “imperialism,” as understood for decades on the Left, had ceased to be relevant.

Once again we see scare quotes around imperialism. In my view, this kind of denialism says much more about these latter day Mensheviks than anything. What we are dealing with is a section of the academic left that has become profoundly disoriented and succumbed to the pressure of living inside the U.S., the world’s largest and most dangerous hegemon in history. The purpose of this article is to put a skull-and-bones sign next to the poisoned well they drink from so as to warn any young graduate student to not drink the water at the risk of political death.


  1. This oxymoronic breed of anti-communist Marxism I haven’t encountered since Norman Thomas donated $50k to the CIA for Latin American union busting.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — April 25, 2010 @ 7:01 pm

  2. Robert MacNeil retired from the News Hour like 15 years ago!!

    Comment by Jon — April 25, 2010 @ 7:40 pm

  3. Hey louis are you going to get around to doing a critique of Ken Macleod? Id like to see you put your talents to bear here. One example that might tweak your interest is how he gave a Cato Institute -esque speach in regards to a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Sputnik. All about how it was a shame that the US chose a big government planning mode to deal with space travel and if only the private sector had been more involved space travel may be more advanced! Its seems he took a really odd turn around the late 1980’s when the Impossibilists he was linked to then were debating Libertarians. Astonishingly the ‘arguments’ they used gave him pause (Im quite purposefully using scare quotes for that). Almost as astonishing is why the Impossiblists were bothering to debate with them in the first place. One of the arguments that makes it way in to the Stone Canal is about how the economy is basically too complex to plan. An argument Id heard before in both the bourgeoise media and from market socialist Alec Nove. Its a companion argument to ‘People are too greedy for socialism’ and ‘People are too violent for socialism’ we have ‘People are too stupid for socialism’.

    Comment by SGuy — April 25, 2010 @ 7:45 pm

  4. Jon, thanks for the correction. Getting old, I guess.

    On Ken McLeod, I haven’t read him in years. He was around Spiked Online but veered away after they dumped the Marxist pretensions. I’ll take another look, but I don’t think that he is worth much worrying about.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 25, 2010 @ 7:49 pm

  5. The Euston Manifesto is a rank symptom of the death of the “Left” — obviously. But the apparently less obvious symptoms are to us in Platypus no less symptomatic, e.g., the darlings Naomi Klein, Tariq Ali, Noam Chomsky, et al.

    Edward Said was not a reliable but rather typical fake-“Left” critic of Kanan Makiya. This was not Said’s highest but rather lowest hour. — Does Makiya’s mistake of throwing in with Bush & co. invalidate what he wrote about the horrors of Baathism in The Republic of Fear? Is it really necessary to deny the truth in order to oppose U.S. et al. “imperialism?”

    Terry Glavin was not being endorsed but critically interviewed in the Platypus Review. The “death of the Left” is to be found not least in the attempt to paint as beyond the pale or otherwise censor discourse on the “Left.” The habits of Stalinism die hard.

    Hitchens’s critique of the bogus “anti-war” “Left” is valid as far as it goes — which is not nearly far enough. And this validity doesn’t alibi Hitchens’s support for the war. But that doesn’t mean that the “anti-war movement” was either a legitimate political movement nor seriously anti-war.

    With Hitchens and Makiya one finds the disintegration of the “Left” along “anti-imperialist” vs. “anti-fascist” lines, both of which have highly dubious pedigrees, historically, i.e., much harm has been done both in the name of (supposed) “anti-fascism” and “anti-imperialism.”

    Cyrus Bina has done some interesting and worthwhile research debunking the “war for oil” arguments, in favor of taking the geo-*politics* more seriously, if anyone is interested.

    The bottom line on the Iraq and Afghan wars is that the U.S. is not the sole responsible party involved, whether for Americans or people throughout the world. The “anti-war movement” is a joke because it was merely a shill for the Democrats under Bush II, which is why it’s gone now under Obama. It was actually pro-war to the extent that it welcomed things going wrong for Bush. Where is the critique of Russia, China, the E.U. — and of the Taliban and Saddam’s Baathists, as politically responsible actors? What Moishe Postone has called the inappropriate “Cold War dualism” in the thinking that one must be exclusively anti-U.S. in considering the depredations of the geopolitics of global capitalism is clearly evident in thinking that such “anti-imperialism” is in any way opposing let alone actually challenging the world order. It’s precisely pseudo-“anti-imperialism,” which will never ever be able to break the hold of global capital. Not only ineffective, it encourages poor thinking on the “Left” and even worse psychological impulses, as anyone who has ever been to any recent “anti-war” protests will have observed.

    This has been a long-standing problem on the “Left,” but it did indeed come to a head around the Seattle protests in 1999. There is such a thing as conservative-reactionary “anti-capitalism,” which has taken over the “Left” and turned it into an actual new Right.

    The skepticism around the word “emancipation” is indicative in this respect. For Marx and the best Marxists did not reduce the question of emancipation to the struggle against exploitation by the workers or the overthrowing of capitalist politics, which were seen as the means to emancipation, not its end.

    The rejection of not only Adorno, but Karl Korsch of all people, as “ivory tower” academics is lame. — Korsch did not retreat into academia so much as ultra-Leftism, which is a different issue — except to those who can’t really stand critique of any kind. What’s “poison” for some is a needed tonic for others.

    These are the kinds of debates that Platypus seeks to foster, not tendentiously, but because we think that a strong case can be made for the inability of the present “Left” to deal with the actual social-political dynamics of the world today — why we say that the “Left is dead!”

    About Platypus’s forebears: Reed likes our project, while Postone is not very happy. The Spartacists absolutely hate us, quite hysterically — more than usual.

    If I might be forgiven one small gesture in the spirit of the acrimony found in the discussion of Platypus on Doug Henwood’s LBO-talk email list that has carried over here, why be an “unrepentant” Marxist?

    We in Platypus feel not repentant/unrepentant about the history of Marxism and the Left more generally, but are motivated rather to approach this problematic history critically. As this history abundantly shows, commitment is hardly enough.

    Platypus is criticized for taking several steps back from the attempts at unproblematic solidarity and commitment — as this were possible to begin with. But it’s clear to younger people how much a trap such pseudo-“Leftism” has become, and they want the freedom to explore how it might be possible to get out of it, taking nothing for granted and accepted no received wisdom whatsoever. We refuse to partake of what Adorno called the “dogmatization and thought-taboos” that have crippled the “Left” — prevented the emergence of a true Left — for several generations, now.

    — Chris

    Comment by Chris Cutrone — April 25, 2010 @ 8:13 pm

  6. Granted, in regard to there has been a few leftist rumblings about moving beyond protest and into actual organizing:


    And well, Adorno kinda had a point: Mao and the Vietcong weren’t the most progressive communists.

    Comment by Jenny — April 25, 2010 @ 8:13 pm

  7. Terry Glavin was not being endorsed but critically interviewed in the Platypus Review.

    People can judge for themselves. In my view, it was about as “critical” as a Jim Lehrer interview with Tom Friedman or Hillary Clinton.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 25, 2010 @ 8:18 pm

  8. As a grad student, I wanted to thank you for your encouragement to stop thinking, lest I ‘drink from the wrong well’.

    It seems that your argument for why the Platypus statements are so ridiculous is, ultimately, that they don’t plant themselves so firmly within the anti-war line. That they aren’t firmly against the war means they must be ‘unfeeling’ and cold: isn’t this a sorry excuse for thinking? It would be more interesting if you engaged their argument and gave one of your own.

    Comment by Gabe — April 25, 2010 @ 8:20 pm

  9. And well, Adorno kinda had a point: Mao and the Vietcong weren’t the most progressive communists.

    Progressive communists? Now, that’s an odd formulation if I ever saw one. Speaking of Adorno, here’s my take on him:


    Comment by louisproyect — April 25, 2010 @ 8:21 pm

  10. Gabe, you go to the U. of Chicago, right? I guess I can’t blame you for being disoriented.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 25, 2010 @ 8:22 pm

  11. I need to say something since we had a long discussion over the past couple days in another thread where I stated that pragmatically voting for Democrats makes sense given that the elections are a reality happening whether socialists like the choices or not. I would like to add that Platypus’s rationalizations for supporting imperialist foreign policy are completely grotesque. I’m actually shocked that people who think they are leftists could support the Iraq or Afghan wars. You learn something every day.

    Comment by ish — April 25, 2010 @ 8:34 pm

  12. “Where is the critique of Russia, China, the E.U. — and of the Taliban and Saddam’s Baathists, as politically responsible actors? What Moishe Postone has called the inappropriate “Cold War dualism” in the thinking that one must be exclusively anti-U.S. in considering the depredations of the geopolitics of global capitalism is clearly evident in thinking that such “anti-imperialism” is in any way opposing let alone actually challenging the world order. It’s precisely pseudo-”anti-imperialism,” which will never ever be able to break the hold of global capital. Not only ineffective, it encourages poor thinking on the “Left” and even worse psychological impulses, as anyone who has ever been to any recent “anti-war” protests will have observed.”

    Gosh, and here I thought the main enemy was at home.

    Comment by BE — April 25, 2010 @ 8:37 pm

  13. Interesting how Proyect, like Henwood, resorts to sneering ad hominem attacks at the first sign of difficulty.

    Comment by Ryan — April 25, 2010 @ 9:21 pm

  14. “I would like to add that Platypus’s rationalizations for supporting imperialist foreign policy are completely grotesque. I’m actually shocked that people who think they are leftists could support the Iraq or Afghan wars. You learn something every day.”

    I’m fairly certain that nobody involved with Platypus has ever supported the politics of “humanitarian intervention” anywhere. Given this and the emphasis of their project on the potential revival of a revolutionary Left, I find Louis’ “eustonite” moniker completely nonsensical. Also worth noting is that the Platypus Review is not a “party publication,” and most of the contributors are not members of the organization.

    “Gabe, you go to the U. of Chicago, right? I guess I can’t blame you for being disoriented.”


    “Gosh, and here I thought the main enemy was at home.”

    The “main enemy” is pretty damn universal. The conflation of global capitalism with the United States is pathetic. My main point of contention with Platypus isn’t their critique, but rather that the limits of this critique can’t be transcended without political action in the form of left reorganization. “Theoretical practice” is no substitute for praxis and a group like Platypus only has appeal when it’s engaging with currents like SDS or the broader student left like they were in the past. Analysis of the present in the form of the economic and the political, as opposed to the philosophical, is also more in keeping with the tradition of second generation radicals. I’m not sure how much I need Korsch to understand the present conjecture.

    Comment by Bhaskar — April 25, 2010 @ 9:50 pm

  15. Maybe Bhaskar has never read the Euston Manifesto but it is not “pro-war”. The signers, like the Platypussies, tend to be much more “anti-antiwar” in the style of what Lillian Hellman described as “anti-antifascist”.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 25, 2010 @ 9:57 pm

  16. Bhaskar writes: “The ‘main enemy’ is pretty damn universal. The conflation of global capitalism with the United States is pathetic.”

    The “main” enemy in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — which is, after all, what is at issue here — is the United States. Or do you contest that? Are the drone bombers murdering Afghanistan civilians sent there by “global capitalism”?

    Yeah, pathetic.

    Comment by BE — April 25, 2010 @ 10:10 pm

  17. Just to make one thing clear- the editorial statement of the Platypus Review states that the views expressed in any articles therein are not those of Platypus as an organization. Thus, the interview with Glavin, as soft-footed or abhorrent or even wonderful as one may or may not find it, does not belong to Platypus as an organization.

    Several times there have been debates and arguments in the paper (e.g., on race and politics, on theory, on red-baiting in an SDS piece, on the German Left, on Pakistan today). I would hope that this would indicate, especially for someone who read through all 17 issues, that disagreement and non-organizational positions are not to be shunned in the paper, but are frequent and ongoing. It’s not a “party organ.”

    It is true that most Left publications have much clearer lines in the sand, and operate with a more exclusive set of political common ground in the selection of material. But this is not the character of the PR, which comes more from a position of perplexity with where the Left finds itself, and therefore seeks to publish a wide range of people and ideas- even those that many in the group might find deeply problematic or distasteful- in order to spark real debate on the Left, rather than an awful lot of assumed agreement.

    This confusion has come up before, and if this goal could be made clearer, I would be happy to hear how to do so. But one shouldn’t confuse the character of the organization with what appears in the paper- except that there’s a whole range of material that aims to debate the character and direction of the Left. The paper is explicitly designed to pose the question of what is and is not the Left (or fighters for freedom, or progressives, or humanists, or radicals, or whatever term one wants to use) today, and force all those who claim the mantle (from arch-neocons to unrepentant Marxists) to debate one another, defend their claims, and thus clarify the tasks ahead.

    Comment by Jeremy — April 25, 2010 @ 10:33 pm

  18. Hmm funny: Adorno’s denounciation of entertainment reminds me of Proyect’s many film reviews..Just sayin.

    Comment by Jenny — April 25, 2010 @ 10:40 pm

  19. Although I must ask what’s Platypus’ issue with the Polish Solidarity movement?

    Comment by Jenny — April 25, 2010 @ 10:47 pm

  20. As the author of the Glavin interview some further explanations are warranted. First, the Platypus Review accepts open submissions and the pieces are not reflections of a Platypus-line, which louisproyect somehow presumes. I am not sure how others in Platypus feel about my piece, but that is beside the point, as the editorial statement elaborates: “The Platypus Review hopes to create a space for interrogating and clarifying positions and orientations currently represented on the Left… as long as submissions exhibit a genuine commitment to this project, all kinds of content will be considered for publication”.

    The Review indeed published my interview, but I certainly think, in retrospect, it is a very weak and limited piece. I considered it a beginning to working out how I would critique someone like Glavin. To this end I tried my best to have Glavin specify his critique’s of the Left, how he considered himself a figure of the Left (which he does claim) and how he reconciled his clearly passive tailing of the US and NATO as somehow a Left project. Simply because I ask him “What is it about Obama’s approach that makes you think that the U.S. will finally make a serious sustained effort to rebuild Afghanistan?” does not mean that I somehow believe that such a thing is possible, but rather, to determine how Glavin thinks such a thing is possible.

    It should be quite clear to anyone who reads the interview that Glavin cannot be considered a figure of the Left; but neither could someone whose anti-imperialism ignores the contemporary framework of capitalism, as do many of his critics. Here lies a dichotomy that any critique needs to avoid falling into. It is too bad that in attempting to build such a position, independent of either side, I am simply accused of defending Glavin.

    Spencer Leonard’s book review “Going it Alone: Christopher Hitchens and the death of the Left” is far stronger than anything I could have written. It is very curious to me that you do the same thing here; choosing to simply portray his piece in a one-sided way and avoiding any actual critique he has of Hitchens. I trust this is not simply for the convenience of a polemic?

    Comment by Andony Melathopoulos — April 25, 2010 @ 10:57 pm

  21. Thus, the interview with Glavin, as soft-footed or abhorrent or even wonderful as one may or may not find it, does not belong to Platypus as an organization.

    I understand that Platypus does not have a “line” on anything but neither does the Nation. It is, like the Nation, a repository of some very toxic opinions at least from the point of view of serious radicals. But, go ahead, don’t let me get in the way. I am only addressing people who might be confused by all the Marxist rhetoric. Beneath it is the same old social democratic crap.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 25, 2010 @ 10:57 pm

  22. Although the back-and-forth debate between Proyect and the Platypus group focuses on “anti-imperialism,” let me reintroduce a hot potato dating from Engels and WWI: class-struggle defencism in an *inter-imperialist war* … *outside a revolutionary period*.

    See, revolutionary defeatism (soldiers on both sides marching on their own capitals) made sense only because the global worker movement was in a revolutionary period by the time the belligerents in WWI shed blood, and only because the war became protracted.

    What are the conditions for a revolutionary period?

    1) Open state hostility to the working class
    2) Party-movement of the working class in opposition to the regime
    3) Majority political support (“political” “electoral) given by the working class to said party-movement
    4) Internal regime crisis within the bureaucracy, police, army, etc.

    [I paraphrased the above from Kautsky’s conditions in The Road to Power.]

    Now, what if WWI had occurred much earlier, say in the late 1890s or very early 1900s? Class-struggle defencism demanded a German victory (while preparing to backstab the German bourgeoisie and Junkers), with all other socialist agitation outside for the centrist “peace without annexations or indemnifications.”

    Contemporarily speaking, much has been said about “anti-Americanism” being the “anti-imperialism of fools.” However, that may not be so in the case of *inter-imperialist war* … *outside a revolutionary period*. The pyrrhic ascendancy of the EU and BRIC at the expense of the US is to be welcomed, thereby weakening the EU and BRIC bourgeoisie and knocking some senses into the US working class.

    Comment by Jacob Richter — April 25, 2010 @ 11:07 pm

  23. It is very curious to me that you do the same thing here; choosing to simply portray his piece in a one-sided way and avoiding any actual critique he has of Hitchens.

    The actual critique is toothless. For the best critique of Hitchens, see Richard Seymour:


    Or Norman Finkelstein:


    Comment by louisproyect — April 25, 2010 @ 11:09 pm

  24. Many of us are shocked that people who think they are leftists could support the Iraq or Afghan wars, or the funders and executors of those bloodthirsty slaughters, currently Obama and the D’s. Platypus is just another example of muddled thought in a bleak left landscape in the US – the left can’t even be ‘antiwar’ here.

    Comment by jp — April 25, 2010 @ 11:16 pm

  25. For some reason my nukes remark hasn’t been posted???

    Comment by Jacob Richter — April 25, 2010 @ 11:18 pm

  26. I’m surprised you didn’t summarise the actual dust-up on LBO, where Cutrone was caught out telling lies about Tariq Ali.

    It’s a shame for Moishe Postone that he is so beloved of jerks, because his writing is really good.

    Comment by skip — April 25, 2010 @ 11:22 pm

  27. As for “anti-imperialism,” I have argued elsewhere that Iran has the right to have nuclear weapons:


    Moreover, the left should embrace the policy of “proletarian nukes” – retaliatory proletarian nuclear deterrent(s) – as part and parcel of class-struggle defencism. No regime has yet used nuclear weapons, even tactical nukes, on its own population. Nuclear weapons are purely external deterrents, unlike conventional forces (especially ground troops).


    Comment by Jacob Richter — April 25, 2010 @ 11:23 pm

  28. “The actual critique is toothless”.

    Could you elaborate?

    Comment by Andony — April 25, 2010 @ 11:34 pm

  29. Well we have a typical ‘Just because they’re not up to your anti-war standards doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong’ argument. Funny then to see a defence of Christopher Hitchens who most assuredly is pro-war and claiming he didn’t go far enough!
    Oh yes btw how come the ad hominems of louis get criticized but not the platypus ad hominems against the anti-war left? hmm?

    Comment by SGuy — April 26, 2010 @ 12:26 am

  30. SGuy. I think you must have read the piece very superficially before responding, because Leonard’s critique of Hitchens has nothing to do with his position on the war (and most certainly “not claiming he didn’t go far enough”):

    “Hitchens’s greatest shortcoming is not the position he has taken on Iraq,… rather, his greatest shortcoming is in his sclerotic Marxism, which is very often conceptually under-specified and indistinguishable from ahistorical liberalism”.

    Comment by Andony — April 26, 2010 @ 12:47 am

  31. his greatest shortcoming is in his sclerotic Marxism

    This is about as absurd as referring to David Horowitz’s Marxism. The only relationship that these two skunks have to Marxism is as ex-Marxists. At one point, Hitchens was supposed to co-lead a tour of Britain with Horowitz, I should add. The worst thing about Platypus’s article is that it doesn’t even pay Hitchens the proper respect by classifying him as a member of the right, in no respects different from his Tory brother Peter. Christopher Hitchens made it known that he voted for George W. Bush in 2004. Some Marxist indeed. I can understand how some confused people on the left can vote for Obama, but this is appalling.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 26, 2010 @ 12:59 am

  32. “Hitchens’s greatest shortcoming is not the position he has taken on Iraq,… rather, his greatest shortcoming is in his sclerotic Marxism…” ?

    errors of theory can’t be worse than supporting bloody imperial slaughter of human beings.

    Comment by jp — April 26, 2010 @ 1:07 am

  33. I was replying to Cutrone actually adony, on a second reading Im not sure thats exactly what he said. Much of what he did say was ad hominem though without a doubt.

    Comment by SGuy — April 26, 2010 @ 5:19 am

  34. “The two young men have cultivated the art of sounding outrageous, so necessary in raising one’s profile on a left filled with ambitious attempts at carving out a market niche.”

    That this motivates them is rather sad.

    Comment by epoliticus — April 26, 2010 @ 5:24 am

  35. Thanks for the clarification SGuy. Louisproject, I thought Leonard’s point is exactly yours, that Hitchens Marxism is not a Marxism at all. I re-read Leonard’s article and in no sense do I get the idea that Hitchens is currently a figure on the Left. Again, it is careless to assume that while Platypus attempts to take Hitchens seriously, that in some way this seriousness implies solidarity. It is like saying that when Marx took Proudhon or Ricardo seriously it was not for the purpose of working out a critique, but because he was furiously working out how to align his political economy with theirs. Why this gets misunderstood is very confusing to me. Please take time to read this work before quickly passing judgement on it.

    Comment by Andony — April 26, 2010 @ 12:55 pm

  36. Yes, people should read the article on Hitchens. That in fact was why I wrote this piece, in order to call attention to the crapola found on Platypus. Just look at this:

    Taking up cudgels against the likes of Tariq Ali, Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, bell hooks, Naomi Klein, Michael Moore, Oliver Stone, Studs Terkel, and Howard Zinn, Hitchens recognized that Ba’athist Iraq’s steady disintegration and the emergence into plain view of Islamist fascism posed for such “leftists” a dilemma they could not resolve.

    I absolutely want young people to understand that Platypus does not think that Howard Zinn is on the left, but Hitchens is. It is very important that this kind of diseased analysis be exposed to the light of day.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 26, 2010 @ 1:05 pm

  37. Again, again, again… why do you presume because Leonard opposes Hitchens to Zinn et al. that this somehow means that Hitchens is de facto the Left? This is very careless. Yes, “young people” read the article as louisproject seems to lost the capacity to read anything dialectically when it comes to Platypus. Why is it so important to you that all critiques leave Zinn et al. unscathed? Are they beyond critique? Why do you continue to evade the actual critique of Hitchens in the piece? It is like you are trying to paste bits together so that you can make Platypus appear as you want it to appear, rather than as it actually is.

    Comment by Andony — April 26, 2010 @ 1:39 pm

  38. Andony, you are having a difficult time trying to make this stinking article appear reasonable. It says:

    To describe Hitchens’s writings in CHHC as acts of “apostasy” from the Left is misleading. It is better to read them as authentic, if inadequate, responses to the intractability of contemporary circumstances.

    But in fact he is the ultimate apostate and makes no apologies for it. When Platypus refers to Zinn, Chomsky et al as “leftists”, we can only conclude that his credentials are stronger than theirs. If you don’t want to be accountable for the shit you write, then don’t write it.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 26, 2010 @ 1:50 pm

  39. In all the clamor about how “we should also be equally critical of the China, Russia, EU et al” lies hypocrisy of staggering proportions. As Chomsky, among others, never tires of pointing out (and clueless Platypuses never tire of forgetting), you are ethically/morally responsible for the foreseeable consequences of YOUR actions, not of somebody else. We live and vote in the United States and therefore our primary concern should be what the U.S. does and how the actions of the U.S. state affects lives of other people.

    Let me illustrate with an example:

    Critic: Stalinist USSR is unjust and authoritarian

    Comissar: But what about racism and Jim Crow in the United States?

    We really don’t need more hacks; we’re already saturated with them (I could just turn on cable news).

    Comment by tveb — April 26, 2010 @ 3:01 pm

  40. How dare these whiners yoke Marcuse with Teddyboy Adorno in denouncing student radicals? When Theodor and Jurgen and, alas, even Ernst Bloch were siccing the cops on Frankfurt University students, Marcuse was asking them, “What the fuck are you doing?”

    “I still believe that our cause (which is not only ours) is better taken up by the rebellious students than by the police, and, here in California, that is demonstrated to me almost daily (and not only in California). . . . We
    should have the theoretical courage not to identify the violence of liberation with the violence of repression, all subsumed under the general category of dictatorship. Terrible as it is, the Vietnamese peasant who shoots his landlord who has tortured and exploited him for decades is not doing the same thing as the landlord who shoots the rebelling slaves.
    Of course, one has to defend parliamentary-democratic institutions when they still guarantee the right to freedom and work against the deepening of repression. But they are not dismantled by student activity but by the ruling class. In the USA today, the state legislatures are a centre of intensified repression, and the recent occupancy of the Supreme Court by Nixon shows the direction in which politics is moving.”

    See Correspondence on the German Student Movement, Theodor Adorno and Herbert Marcuse, NLR I/233, January-February 1999, pp. 123-136.

    Comment by Jim Holstun — April 26, 2010 @ 3:55 pm

  41. What’s amazing to me is that anyone can work through the articles found at that site at all. I’m just not that interested in the psychological nuance of the contradictions found within the contemporary post modern subtleties of the staphylococcal pimples on the rumps of ostentatious anti-authoritarianism or the tropes to be dissected thereby. Out where I am, we’re trying to figure out how to best defend public education teacher contracts that are under attack from Microsoft billionaires who have managed to invert the Civil Rights dialogue so that it defends the interests of corporate thieves. There’s not much to be found at Platypus that’s real concrete.

    Comment by Michael Hureaux — April 26, 2010 @ 6:36 pm

  42. Them eggheads with their book-learnin’!

    Comment by Cam Hardy — April 26, 2010 @ 6:55 pm

  43. epoliticus writes:
    “That this motivates them is rather sad.”

    Yes, what’s equally sad is that Howard Zinn’s entire career as an activist was motivated by a teenage vendetta against tuna fish cans, spawned from an unfortunate sexual accident.

    Comment by Bhaskar — April 26, 2010 @ 7:11 pm

  44. Re comments #3 and #4: Actually I came across the economic calculation argument quite by accident in the late 70s or early 80s, and that had nothing to do with the impossibilists, whose ideas I only understood much later. I was no more ‘around’ Spiked in the 90s than I’ve ‘veered away’ from them now.

    Anyone who thinks the economic calculation argument is ‘people are too stupid for socialism’ has no idea what they’re talking about. Trotsky got it: ‘Economic accounting is unthinkable without market relations.’

    As for my novel ‘The Stone Canal’ – at the very end of that the narrator says that (in the far future) the economic calculation argument has been refuted. But that’s science fiction. In the real world the argument hasn’t been refuted, as far as I know.

    Comment by Ken MacLeod — April 26, 2010 @ 7:46 pm

  45. Are you saying Trotsky was a market socialist Ken? I think your missing out the part where he felt that soviet democracy could take the part of market accounting. Btw I implied you got it from the libertarians which is based on the fact that it is the libertarian narrator who brings it up. Now Im willing to agree that neither Alec Nove, who is a market socialist, or Trotsky who is felt that market relations would continue to a degree after the revolution although ultimately fated to fade away dont think peple are too stupid, however what does one say about an anarcho or more regular capitalist who uses this argument? The more polite may well distance themselves from it but Im sure the Rand bots would have no trouble with embracing that.

    Comment by SGuy — April 26, 2010 @ 8:35 pm

  46. Man, I love me some Unrepentant Marxist….but why bother sniping at a group nobody’s even heard of?

    Comment by Jon — April 26, 2010 @ 8:57 pm

  47. Can i just skip the civil exchange of opinion and go straight to verbal abuse? I ‘d hate to waste my breath on people who in an ideal world should have been drowned in a barrel full of horse-piss.

    Comment by Antonis — April 26, 2010 @ 9:20 pm

  48. “Yes, what’s equally sad is that Howard Zinn’s entire career as an activist was motivated by a teenage vendetta against tuna fish cans, spawned from an unfortunate sexual accident.”

    Obscurity suits you, Bhaskar.

    Comment by epoliticus — April 26, 2010 @ 11:01 pm

  49. Jon: “Man, I love me some Unrepentant Marxist….but why bother sniping at a group nobody’s even heard of?”

    Jon, Louisproject says its for the ‘young people’ so they do not become politically dead.

    Politically *alive*, I would imagine, would involve some kind of engagement and discussion. I have been to dead political meetings and they involve minutes, a treasure reports and vulgar gossip about party officials. Typically the President has run the constituency-riding association/ union local for many, many years and is apt to shut down discussion when it does not suit him/her. No one digs into anything substantial and after going for awhile it becomes very repetitive.

    A case in point: I cannot seem to get a discussion going here that does not end with anything more rigorous than “because your wrong” (which is a line I never recall Marx ever resorting to). I will of course take responsibility for weak arguments but as someone who comes to Marxism independent of a university or a sectarian group, I am forced to depend on strong critiques in order to grow. I am not sure how you expect someone to learn when arguments here seem so readily dismissed on the cheap?

    I have definitely been turned off by this blog through this thread. It is a real shame as Platypus should be as vigorously and intelligently critiqued as anything. The only thing that has come out that made any sense was that Platypus is not a group involved in direct activity… that Platypus is doing too little… its focusing on esoteric issues and not ones of bread and butter… but driving to direct action when there has been something like a paltry five work stoppages this year seems to completely deny the facts (and thus is idealized in the fashion that liberals are wont to do). The Left is very very weak (does anyone here not believe that?) and there is an urgent need to understand why… so that it might again be a driving force in society.

    Anyways, I can see the recriminations immediately being generated as soon as this appears on the thread (“you want the Left dead, period”, “…but how can you say that when you support the US wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, X, Y, Z” and “you support Israel against Palestine”, etc.). None of these things are true. All that is going on is that certain participants have refused to consider arguments on their totality (pasting bits together to make a point, unwilling to make their point on the basis of a whole piece).

    If this were 1875 you would have accused Marx for undermining social democracy in writing his Critique of the Gotha program, because he was taking stern shots at an existing Left group (“he says he is a Marxist, but he does not believe labour is the basis of wealth”). Being so negative of a political movement of the Left with some potential, I wonder if some here would have drowned him in “barrel full of horse-piss” at the first convenient opportunity?

    So, proceed. I am signing off. Good luck.

    Comment by Andony — April 27, 2010 @ 12:18 am

  50. That’s it Andony. Way to go. Just sign off. Sionara. Adios. Mahalo.

    Forget defending the pathetic PlatyPussy position that “all voices should be heard” re: the Iraq and AfPak wars. As if socialists should be patient when hearing the islamofascist nonsense of Hitchens et al. Sign off? Why don’t you just draw up a warm bath and slit your fucking wrists for crisfuckinsakes?

    An “ecclectic hodgepodge” Trotsky rightly called this pseudo-leftist phenom. Today it reminds me of Creationists vociferously demanding that “Intelligent Design” should be given equal standing at a freaking International Biology symposium!

    I’m with Antonis on this shit. Verbal abuse is now in order. All this urgency for debate while fucking fly by wire joytick drones (with Maquilladora wiring that says Hecho en Mexico) displaying little American flag stickers (the 21st century swastika) are vaporizing peasant wedding parties in the name of “freedom & democracy” but, yet, in the true intellectual spirit of Marx — all points of view should be heard!

    The point, as Marx said, is to change the fucking world, not to reinterpret it. Shame on the platypussies for not taking that axiom as its staring point. Shame on you Bhasakar, an obviously proud man of color whom I confer all due respect, for sillyly besmirching the name of the late Howard Zinn with some obscurantist bullshit.

    Look. Marxism in a nutshell is really just the history of the oppressed toilers that wouldn’t otherwise get told by the prevailing regime of the opressors. You do agree that this tortured planet is still sharply divided by oppressors and oppressed do you not? Then shame on you for not recognizing that man Zinn had more genuine American Marxist credentials in his old yellowed toe nail clippings than, say, somebody like Michael Harrington ever had in his entire living body.

    I started this thread’s comments with the notion that I haven’t been so disguted since the late 60’s when Norman Thomas gave the CIA DSA funds to start the first anticommunist death squads in Latin America, an irrefraggable fact.

    I’d like to end the thread with this quote from this site’s moderator, the Unrepentant Marxist, who rightly said in comment #21: “I am only addressing people who might be confused by all the Marxist rhetoric. Beneath it is the same old social democratic crap.”

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — April 27, 2010 @ 1:39 am

  51. Another disgusting distortion promoted by this whole Platypussy discussion of the allegedly pathetic antiwar movement is the fact that virtually every poll ever taken shows that more than half of the erstwile brainwashed American public still willy nilly considers the Iraq war either a criminally negligent blunder or a bewilderingly wasteful misguided adventure to its very core. The public, ignorent by design, starved of education funding, has shown over and over that it knows instictively, in its bones, that the war is a bloody high crime and NOT a misdeameanor.

    Nevermind the consensus of the public, say the platypussies, the “Left” if it is to be viable needs to consider “all points of view”, like a true ecclectic hodgepodge, if it is to effectively counter the right, a la Perry Anderson.

    I say fuck you Platypussies & I wipe my hemerroid riddled ass with a sigh using Perry Anderson’s pages.

    Here’s the facts. The first big anti-war left split post-Vietnam happenned in 1991 with the 1st Gulf War, which really wasn’t a war since only one side was shooting. Moreover, the difference between the 1st Gulf War & the second is about the same, on an obviously smaller scale, as the 1st World War & the 2nd World War — that is, it was unfinished imperialist business.

    Fact. The 1st gulf war movement, which was HUGE by all accounts, was lead at 1st by one grouping (the WWP while Sam Marcy was alive) then was odiously split purposely into 2 distinct factions, the latter at the last minute boycotting the huge March 21st march on Washington, obstensibly lead by the WWP, which advocated revolutionary defeatism, in other words, although they didn’t come out & say it, victory to Iraq, which, would have strengthened the most secular mid-east state, albeit a pseudo-stalinist one, but the victory of which, according to the Leninism of Trotsky, would have curtailed the ambitions of a far more dangerous regime, that of Uncle Sam’s, while strengthening progressive forces at home.

    As Lenin, the most significant figure to have influenced the outcome of the last 100 years constantly railed: the defeat of your imperialist army abroad is the greatest victory for your progressive forces at home! Whoever does not absorb this as an axiom deserves, in my view, to be castigated from debates like Creationists at a Biology convention.

    Just to ensure that people they considered “stalinists” — the splitters of the biggest anti-war movement since Vietnam, Leslie Cagan (and yes, L.P) the late Peter Cameo, & even unwittingly Noam Chomsky, devasting and calculating dividers that they were, called for another march on Washington — but the following weekend! They were organically horrified by the Leninist prospect of “victory to Iraq” and instead called for “UN sanctions against Iraq” naively unaware that carpet bombing would have actually been more humane than the slow starvation of old people & children over a decade that ultimately claimed at least a million or Iraq’s most vulnerble civilians.


    These same fuckwads that besmirched Ramsey Clark’s honest assessments back in the day now cruelly are big critics of sanctions — yet still not without an iota of guilt! (Although I’d give Cameo & perhaps Chomsky for being man enough to admit that line was pure dog shit.)

    Instructively this same split lives on to this day with the same lack of guilt. There are those that pray for heroic Iraqi insurgents (without which Dubya would look like a genius) to snipe & IED the invaders into oblivion, demoralization & defeat, thereby inexorably giving strength to progessive forces at home, & those who were for sanctions back in the day who hope for, what, I can’t say, except that somehow, since they voted for Obama, “we” get out with as little mess as possible.

    Fucking chickenhawk cowards. Fucking apologizers for imperialist war. Wanting to debate the merits of it with “all points of view considered” in the name of Marxist intellectualism!

    To those who advocate such “tolerance” I say go fuck yourselves with a pitchfork & don’t consider yourselves safe in the unlikely event your lazy asses are opposite me on some barricade where history is really made because I’m so fucking mad at you bastards I’ll crush your egghead skulls with a 4×4 and answer questions later.

    Oh, I know, I’ll be charged with being just like Pol-Pot, guilty of genocide for killing Cambodians with glasses, notwithstanding the small detail that he too was a Cambodian with glasses, which makes for an odd case of genocide.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — April 27, 2010 @ 4:34 am

  52. I think the left is eternally doomed to eat itself.

    Comment by Jon — April 27, 2010 @ 9:46 am

  53. Uh… what was that about Pol Pot?

    Comment by skip — April 27, 2010 @ 10:10 am

  54. You guys are all looney tunes. Can’t tell you what a turn-off this conversation is.

    Comment by Jon — April 27, 2010 @ 10:25 am

  55. I mean, what’s the last thing any of you people did for “the class struggle” besides sit behind your keyboard, pounding out dogmatic diatribes that fewer than half a dozen people will read? Name what you’ve done, in real life, lately.

    Comment by Jon — April 27, 2010 @ 10:30 am

  56. Sguy #45: Of course I learned of the economic calculation argument from the libertarians. I got it from a pamphlet version of this article by David Ramsay Steele who is definitely not a Randbot (.pdf) and definitely doesn’t think that the impossibility of planning is because ‘people are too stupid’.

    I don’t think Trotsky was a market socialist, but he relegated the replacement of market relations as an indispensable regulator of the plan to an indefinite future.

    Comment by Ken MacLeod — April 27, 2010 @ 10:33 am

  57. “Name what you’ve done, in real life, lately.”

    So writes another guy sitting behind his keyboard.

    Trying to change the subject by demanding revolutionary credentials over the internet. The subject at hand being that Platypus is a liberal, middle-class pro-war outfit, and which will most probably have the same fate as its British counterpart: increasngly moving to the right, while its members sink further into alcoholism (Hitchens, Cohen) and cretinism.

    All of which should not of course stop us from sticking the boot in.

    Treating Marxism and left-wing politics as a literary subject to be deconstructed by detached students at some English Lit class, understandably invites scorn and abuse by marxists, who live and die by it.

    In cases like this, the best reply by any decent marxist to this kind of “people” is to knee them in the balls and call them a c**t.

    Comment by Antonis — April 27, 2010 @ 11:18 am

  58. Karl Friedrich, I really appreciate your last two comments. Thank you.

    Comment by ish — April 27, 2010 @ 11:36 am

  59. Louis,

    This post is very timely for me because, as a young graduate student, I’m thinking about attending the Platypus1917 convention in Chicago next month. I think I’ll still try to go– but I’m grateful that, armed with your accusations of Eustonism and ivory tower obscurity, I’ll be better able to make my own critical assessment of the group.

    More importantly, this post inspired me to voice a long-standing curiosity: from which well would you suggest that young graduate students drink? I ask this sincerely, as someone who also hopes to attend the ISO’s Chicago conference (despite the cost) in June, rather than as a subtle accusation of your political insatiability. Your critical reflections on the SWP helped me to contextualize my brief involvement with the Chicago SWP chapter last year.

    Thanks for considering this. Cheers,


    Comment by Ed — April 27, 2010 @ 2:52 pm

  60. I think the ISO would not be a bad choice even though their position on Cuba is bad, as well as their failure to really think outside the box on the organization question. There is also Solidarity, a group that has no vanguard pretensions. Some people who join Solidarity become frustrated because it does not have the kind of discipline and muscle that the ISO has but there are some very capable people in its ranks.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 27, 2010 @ 3:02 pm

  61. Well Ken we seem to be at a semantic point where the word stupid is really sticking in your craw. The economic calculation may well be a more sophisticated argument then ‘People are too selfish, people are too violent’ but it has the same exact conclusion! Now we can replace stupid with “people are smart but not quite smart enough” but I prefer my version which feels more honest to me.
    Speaking of semantics I myself am not crazy about your use of the term indefinite to describe Trotsky’s feelings towards the market, indefinite in my experience tends to mean maybe never. I would point to work done since Trotsky’s time, including by my favourite Trotskyist Ernest Mandel. The question of how much market relations do decide and how much is made by planning both public and private. You haven’t commented for instance about your 50th anniversary of Sputnik speach but unless you were being sarcastic you seemed to really resent the use of public planning in this area.

    Comment by SGuy — April 27, 2010 @ 3:11 pm

  62. A few years back I attended a number of meetings of the Burlington chapter of the ISO. They did a lot of great stuff at the University of Vermont campus. But ultimately, I couldn’t take their ignorance of history (the Bolsheviks suppressed the Russian Constituent Assembly, who knew?) or their group think, which is absolutely stultifying.

    Comment by Jon — April 27, 2010 @ 4:44 pm

  63. The ISO preys on young undergraduates, hands them a copy of “State and Revolution” and cynically tries to pass Lenin off as small “d” democract.

    Comment by Jon — April 27, 2010 @ 4:57 pm

  64. Jon, I gather that you are some kind of red-baiting troll, right?

    Comment by louisproyect — April 27, 2010 @ 5:17 pm

  65. Nah, just not a big fan of Lenin or the ISO.

    Comment by Jon — April 27, 2010 @ 5:26 pm

  66. I pretty much agree with Chomsky’s estimation of Lenin and Trotsky, which I’ve included below. But if that makes me unwelcome here, I’m willing to leave.

    Comment by Jon — April 27, 2010 @ 5:32 pm

  67. Chomsky considered a vote for Obama as a good lesser evil and said publicly at the outset of the 1st Gulf War that “sanctions against Iraq ought to be given a chance” — so his criticisms of Trotsky naturally differ little from a typical social democrat or platypussy.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — April 27, 2010 @ 7:47 pm

  68. That clip is another sad example of how far out of his depth Chomsky is when discussing the history of Marxism. The idea that Lenin was on the right of the socialist movement displays a staggering ignorance about the history of the second international.

    As for his thoughts on the Bolshevik state, Kevin Murphy has an excellent demolition of Chomsky’s key claims in the current International Socialism: http://www.isj.org.uk/index.php4?id=643&issue=126

    Comment by herrnaphta — April 27, 2010 @ 8:14 pm

  69. Chomsky’s attitude towards the Bolsheviks reflects the attitude that most left libertarians have towards the forms workers states took in the 20th century. But no anarchist experience, including that of Spain, has ever been able to surmount the contradictions of a revolution under siege.

    Comment by Michael Hureaux — April 27, 2010 @ 8:19 pm

  70. In 1992 on the 500 year anniversary of Columbus, Chomsky said the view of an East-West conflict was a misnomer and that for the last 500 years history’s really been about a North – South conflict of exploiters vs. exploited, of which the USSR was essentially the leader of the South, and that like all other slave revolts over the last 500 years they were ultimately crushed by the North, it just took a lot longer for the Soviets to fall due to to such an enormous land mass and large standing army. He said there was no fanfare or glee in the South over the demise of the USSR.

    While this worldview has substantial merit it obviously didn’t prevent him from besmirching the names of the leaders of the longest lasting slave revolt in history. Not surprising from an anarchist who votes for democrats as the lesser evil. Apparently he doesn’t mind that the democrats prosecuted every major war over the last 100 years, with the exception of Panama & the 2 Gulf Wars, which are hardly wars in the traditional sense insofar as really only one side was shooting.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — April 27, 2010 @ 9:34 pm

  71. Friedrich,

    That sounds like an interesting read. Any chance you can point me in the direction of where Chomsky made the “slave revolt” remark?

    Comment by Jon — April 27, 2010 @ 10:27 pm

  72. Regular criticism of the original Eustonites can be found at http://aaronovitch.blogspot.com/

    Comment by skidmarx — April 28, 2010 @ 1:48 pm

  73. Fellow grad students,
    Have a listen to the Platypus sessions at the Left Forum. The audio is available at archive.org through searching “platypus”. One of them outlines the basic Platypus account of the 20th century “decline” of the left. You’ll find that any and every moment of social upheaval failed because it didn’t end in revolution – 1917 included. It’s an attractive approach to the left when you’re disconnected from actual political struggles and bummed out or burned from something you’ve just gone through. But the whole idea that the left has to “get” the Platypus “decline of the left” thesis before we can move on is just nonsense. We need more activists working together, not more potential activists being sucked into wannabe ivory towers, sniping at anyone doing anything. What a dead-end. As a grad student, I just don’t have time for this unless I decide to sever parts of my brain and become content trolling websites and conjuring up the perfect analysis. I’d rather suffer from “activistism” than armchairism. I’d rather be talking to non-socialists on picket lines and at protests than drown my self-important socialist laments over pints. Seems like the first step towards hanging myself in a dingy apartment because “there is no future.”

    Comment by djn — April 28, 2010 @ 1:58 pm

  74. FWIW: The “slave revolt” remark by Chomsky was given in a lecture in 1992 called “The 500 Year Reich” at Bowling Green State University, about 20 miles SE of Toledo. This was around the time when Paul Tsongas was in the news sprewing his bile. The university video taped the lecture and I once had a copy that I showed freshman sociology students in a class I T.A’d but i haven’t seen my copy in years and I remember searching back in the day for a transcript but to no avail.

    The moral of Chomsky’s lecture was that the collapse of the USSR would portend bad things for the South, the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people, who would now be even more vulnerable with the Soviets gone.

    This lead my colleagues, who were all DSAers, to remark afterwards that it was the worst Chomsky speech they ever heard!

    I, on the other hand, was blown away since Chomsky made precisely the argument I had been making Re: the USSR.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — April 28, 2010 @ 2:33 pm

  75. Well, I’d love to read the speech. But unfortunately there’s no evidence of it on the internet, which is surprising, since Chomsky’s work is pretty well documented.

    Comment by Jon — April 28, 2010 @ 3:35 pm

  76. If you ever find the text or the video, let me know.

    Comment by Jon — April 28, 2010 @ 3:36 pm

  77. What you report he said seems at odds with every mentioned I’ve seen him make of the fall of the USSR, such as what follows. It should be mentioned that he talks about the North-South dynamic, but he in no way suggests that having the USSR around was a worthwhile thing.

    “CHOMSKY: My response to the end of Soviet tyranny was similar to my reaction to the defeat of Hitler and Mussolini. In all cases, it is a victory for the human spirit. It should have been particularly welcome to socialists, since a great enemy of socialism had at last collapsed. Like you, I was intrigued to see how people – including people who had considered themselves anti-Stalinist and anti-Leninist – were demoralised by the collapse of the tyranny. What it reveals is that they were more deeply committed to Leninism than they believed.

    There are, however, other reasons to be concerned about the elimination of this brutal and tyrannical system, which was as much socialist as it was democratic (recall that it claimed to be both, and that the latter claim was ridiculed in the West, while the former was eagerly accepted, as a weapon against socialism – one of the many examples of the service of Western intellectuals to power). One reason has to do with the nature of the Cold War. In my view, it was in significant measure a special case of the ‘North-South conflict,’ to use the current euphemism for Europe’s conquest of much of the world. Eastern Europe had been the original ‘third world,’ and the Cold War from 1917 had no slight resemblance to the reaction of attempts by other parts of the third world to pursue an independent course, though in this case differences of scale gave the conflict a life of its own. For this reason, it was only reasonable to expect the region to return pretty much to its earlier status: parts of the West, like the Czech Republic or Western Poland, could be expected to rejoin it, while others revert to the traditional service role, the ex-Nomenklatura becoming the standard third world elite (with the approval of Western state-corporate power, which generally prefers them to alternatives). That was not a pretty prospect, and it has led to immense suffering.

    Another reason for concern has to do with the matter of deterrence and non-alignment. Grotesque as the Soviet empire was, its very existence offered a certain space for non-alignment, and for perfectly cynical reasons, it sometimes provided assistance to victims of Western attack. Those options are gone, and the South is suffering the consequences.

    A third reason has to do with what the business press calls the pampered Western workers with their luxurious lifestyles. With much of Eastern Europe returning to the fold, owners and managers have powerful new weapons against the working classes and the poor at home. GM and VW can not only transfer production to Mexico and Brazil (or at least threaten to, which often amounts to the same thing), but also to Poland and Hungary, where they can find skilled and trained workers at a fraction of the cost. They are gloating about it, understandably, given the guiding values.

    We can learn a lot about what the Cold War (or any other conflict) was about by looking at who is cheering and who is unhappy after it ends. By that criterion, the victors in the Cold War include Western elites and the ex-Nomenklatura, now rich beyond their wildest dreams, and the losers include a substantial part of the population of the East along with working people and the poor in the West, as well as popular sectors in the South that have sought an independent path.

    Such ideas tend to arouse near hysteria among Western intellectuals, when they can even perceive them, which is rare. That’s easy to show. It’s also understandable. The observations are correct, and subversive of power and privilege; hence hysteria.

    In general, the reactions of an honest person to the end of the Cold War will be more complex than just pleasure over the collapse of a brutal tyranny, and prevailing reactions are suffused with extreme hypocrisy, in my opinion.”


    Comment by Jon — April 28, 2010 @ 3:52 pm

  78. “Grotesque as the Soviet empire was, its very existence offered a certain space for non-alignment, and for perfectly cynical reasons, it sometimes provided assistance to victims of Western attack. Those options are gone, and the South is suffering the consequences.”

    this is precisely the approach karl described – didn’t you notice that, jon?

    Comment by jp — April 28, 2010 @ 4:59 pm

  79. Don’t much care whether Chomsky thinks the Soviet experience was “worthwhile”. It’s good to know he made some statements about the role the Soviets played that are a little more sober then his usual Bolshie-phobia. On the flip side, his assessments of the early Soviet experience are almost cliched, nowhere near as nuanced as those of Bolshevik critics like E.P. Thompson, Paul Avrich or Victor Serge,all sources on the Bolshevik revolution that are far more reasonable than anything to be found in Chomsky’s writings on the topic.

    Comment by Michael Hureaux — April 28, 2010 @ 6:01 pm

  80. I did notice that JP, but the statement was, of course, prefaced by this:

    “My response to the end of Soviet tyranny was similar to my reaction to the defeat of Hitler and Mussolini. In all cases, it is a victory for the human spirit. It should have been particularly welcome to socialists, since a great enemy of socialism had at last collapsed.”

    Comment by Jon — April 28, 2010 @ 7:36 pm

  81. Karl wasn’t arguing that Chomsky liked the USSR or was unhappy at its collapse, only that Chomsky had noted (paraphrased) that “the collapse of the USSR would portend bad things for the South, the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people, who would now be even more vulnerable with the Soviets gone.”

    Your quote from Chomsky confirmed that paraphrase. To me, whatever your analysis of the USSR, this is to Chomsky’s credit, as it shows recognition that the geopolitical game had many sideshows.

    Comment by jp — April 28, 2010 @ 8:04 pm

  82. Yes, well, many of us didn’t welcome the collapse of the Soviet Union because we understood full well what the collapse of that bullwark would mean to those independence and non-alligned efforts in the re-emergent non white countries that didn’t just accept aid from the Soviets. Wretched though the Soviet experience was, the absence of the Soviets and their aid in various parts of the world has facilitated the rapid advance of the mystical fundamentalist bullshit that currently dogs the very existence of the Middle East
    just as the retreat of the “left” in this country and the according
    collapse of secular infrastructure in this country has enabled the parade of nuclear powered fruitcakes who dominate politics in the United States. The trade off has been shit, quite frankly. This is a victory which is “in all cases”, a “victory for the human spirit”? What self-satisfied nonsense.

    Comment by Michael Hureaux — April 28, 2010 @ 8:18 pm

  83. Michael, I’d agree with your analysis, but Karl’s original point, which I was defending, was that Chomsky at least had that north/south nuance within his viewpoint.

    Comment by jp — April 28, 2010 @ 8:25 pm

  84. [Well, I’d love to read the speech. But unfortunately there’s no evidence of it on the internet, which is surprising, since Chomsky’s work is pretty well documented.]

    Actually only about 1% of the hundreds of speeches Chomsky has given over the last 40 years are documented. I learned this the hard way trying to get a transcript of that BGSU speech I attended. There was only a single video in the BGSU archives (which I copied) with the 1st 5 minutes of the audio cut off. If it wasn’t for David Barsamian who documents many of Chomsky’s talks the figure would be much less than 1%.

    The fact remains that Chomsky cogently argued in that speech that “the demise of the vast Soviet tyranny” (those were his exact words) was “dreaded by the people of the South” as they “looked up to it as an economic model they hoped to emulate.” That’s verbatim. The implication, of course, being that if you sympathized with the world’s toilers then you also dreaded the demise of the USSR. It was this implication that so rankled the DSAers who dragged me to this speech in the first place.

    Since the world’s poor knew that 2 cars in every garage wasn’t a feasible model they instead longed for a planned economy that used natural resources not to enrich the North but to meet their basic needs: like free bread, full employment, free medicine, free education, & subsidized housing.

    But what about the right to jump on a soapbox and preach whatever pops into one’s head? Insofar as the the toiling billions don’t have much in the way of soapbox rights anyway they will always trade that luxury for some free bread, a guaranteed job, and cradle to grave social security.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — April 28, 2010 @ 8:35 pm

  85. It should also be noted that during that speech, given just weeks before the US invaded Iraq the first time, Chomsky mentioned that he had just toured Africa “a continent so devastated by imperialist plunder it may never recover” and then he remarked that “most of the kids in the streets had t-shirts that said something like: Victory to Iraq!”

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — April 28, 2010 @ 8:51 pm

  86. Speaking of Chomsky, who are some other leftist intellectuals or figures that you’d guys like to see interviewed? I had an interview scheduled with Howard Zinn but he died before we had a chance to talk. Now, I’m not sure who I want to approach next.

    Comment by Jon — April 28, 2010 @ 9:12 pm

  87. The only real limitation is that they have to have some kind of sympathy for the IWW, as it’s their paper I’ll be writing for.

    Comment by Jon — April 28, 2010 @ 9:21 pm

  88. Norman Finkelstein.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — April 28, 2010 @ 9:34 pm

  89. Good call. I just don’t think I’m prepared to speak on the Israel/Palestine conflict, even if only to ask questions. I’m really uninformed on the topic.

    Comment by Jon — April 28, 2010 @ 9:57 pm

  90. Plus, he’s kind of scary!

    Comment by Jon — April 28, 2010 @ 10:22 pm

  91. for interviews, how about Louis Proyect, Mike Ely or Michael Hureaux? three guys i’d like to hear more from.

    Comment by jp — April 28, 2010 @ 10:26 pm

  92. “Really uninformed”, eh?

    Some brown people got their land stolen by some white people in a nation that only exists because it gets $10,000 per person per year from Uncle Sam (without which they would have been driven into the sea 40 years ago), they get treated less than human by these artificially enriched thieves, their grievences lodged in the UN are routinely ignored, and they’re mighty pissed off about it. What’s so complicated about that?

    You seem to know a lot about what Chomsky thinks. He’s said much on the topic. He describes living in Gaza like “a concentration camp where you’re free to decide what meal to cook.”

    I frankly don’t think Finkelstein is nearly as scary as Derchowitz, who when he gets cornered strikes me as really nuts, but then again, that’s what all rabid Zionists strike me as.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — April 28, 2010 @ 11:28 pm

  93. I mean obviously I know the basics.

    Comment by Jon — April 29, 2010 @ 12:39 am

  94. (I know the conversation has shifted on this blog, but this was the only time I could write a response. It was originally posted on Cohen’s “Steal This Radio” blog, because he asked me to formulate a response to keep the dialogue going.)

    The expected audacity of Proyect’s zealous comments come as no surprise from someone who seems more inclined to try and belittle his so-called “opponents” (i.e. Platypus) instead of offer any real critical response. Immediately off-the-bat he opens this piece with these unqualified statements:

    “The two young men have cultivated the art of sounding outrageous, so necessary in raising one’s profile on a left filled with ambitious attempts at carving out a market niche. They say, for example, that Naomi Klein has mounted a “rightwing critique of Milton Friedman”. I have my own problems with Klein, but this analysis is frankly stupid.”

    Acquisitions such as our thirst to “raise our profile” in some sort of “market niche” should not even be addressed. –The only illumination one could get from this comment is if you put a match up to this straw-man, it would burn ever so brightly.

    But the potential for debate that lies in his disagreement is our claim that Naomi Klein represents the perfect example of the right-ward drift in the Left today. By only citing our assessment as a “stupid” theory, Proyect fails to mention the conversation that followed from our radio interview. I will thus reiterate.

    Klein’s allergy to politics of emancipation–or at the very least forming a political program that incorporates utopian ends–is by far the most telling aspect of Klein’s right-wing position. She only goes as far as advocating a kind of “new” New Deal, and calls for the “nationalization” of resources such as oil, etc. And as problematic as these calls are, they are not even means to an end for Klein–this, to her, is utopian enough! As any purported Marxist very well knows, those who supported the New Deal when it first came into the picture in the 1930s was a *conservative* response to the economic crisis of the Great Depression; it was in no way intended to open up further conditions to a revolutionary politic, but attempted to thwart them.

    And we not only substantiated our claims by pointing to Klein’s myopic political imagination, but we also–quite provocatively I might add–find its roots in the end-of-ideology camp from the 1950s. This thesis–which the New Left pitted themselves against in their formative years in the late 50s and early 60s–was not much different then what we see in Klein: advocating for a “mixed economy,” the dropping of a “revolutionary rhetoric,” and the call for state run programs. It is evident which side of history Klein resides, but obviously not for most of the Left because of the popularity she receives from its circles (and does confusion include you, Proyect, or were you more interested in making cheap shots?).

    All throughout Proyects sweeping statements–that provide evidence that he did not thoroughly engage with our material–he makes many accusations, but provides little substance. I’d suggest that instead of trying to smear all of Platypus with one foul swipe, you focus your argument more and engage with us on the level of ideas rather than ad hominem responses–you actually might come off as more coherent that way.

    I would be more than happy to get into a critical discussion about why or why not Klein represents a right-wing perspective, but given the hysteria that comes from his writing, we can only start by clearing the fog exhausted from his apparent frustration. I guess the format of his blog is most appropriate medium for his writing: it comes off as a mere editorial instead of a solid and thoughtful critique.

    Comment by Chris Mansour — April 29, 2010 @ 8:23 pm

  95. Mansour: As any purported Marxist very well knows, those who supported the New Deal when it first came into the picture in the 1930s was a *conservative* response to the economic crisis of the Great Depression; it was in no way intended to open up further conditions to a revolutionary politic, but attempted to thwart them.

    So many words to try to make the case that Naomi Klein is to the right of Milton Friedman. You wouldn’t need to waste your time trying to explain such nonsense if you hadn’t written it in the first place. In the entire universe, including the planet Xarmiz, everybody would put Klein to the left of Friedman. It is only on the planet Platypus that this gets reversed. What a joke.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 29, 2010 @ 9:18 pm

  96. We said that Klein had a *conservative* critique of Friedman, not that Friedman was the the left of Klein. This is where your ridicule of us falls short: you fetishize choosing “sides” in arguments so much, you assume that we must be siding with Friedman over Klein. To wit: just because I say that Klein had a *conservative* response to capitalism, it is not saying–or even implying–Friedman was somehow a more desirable figure. My criticism of Klein was directed at her political ideologies, not comparing her to Freidman by any means.

    Indeed, what a joke.

    Comment by Chris Mansour — April 29, 2010 @ 9:39 pm

  97. By allowing Milton Friedman and his neoliberal critique of the welfare state to monopolize the word “freedom,” and Klein’s Fordism was a conservative. She accepted “freedom” as the basis of Friedman’s thought.

    Comment by Bhaskar — April 29, 2010 @ 9:46 pm

  98. We said that Klein had a *conservative* critique of Friedman

    I understand that. On the planet Platypus, this makes sense but not on the planet Earth.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 29, 2010 @ 10:41 pm

  99. Your failure to back up your claims are indicative of the lack of substance to your “critique.” Lets stop wasting time and get to the meat of the matter: Klein wants a Canadian-like social democracy or a “new” New Deal–nothing more. How is this not conserving the fundamental thrust capitalism?

    Comment by Chris Mansour — April 29, 2010 @ 10:49 pm

  100. So if Klein wants a new New Deal. what is it exactly Mansour wants?

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — April 29, 2010 @ 11:08 pm

  101. That’s the platypus response? Naomi Klein is the perfect example of rightward drift of the left? not Progressives For Obama? not PDA? not DSA? not the Nation? certainly not Platypus – they are so much more courageous than those unprincipled anti-imperialists.

    Comment by jp — April 30, 2010 @ 12:01 am

  102. To Karl: I would say that I want a far stronger (authentic) Marxian international movement then what we have today; I do not want a tepid reformist program that attempts to reintroduce a historical model filled with problems and sub par “solutions” that would only reoccur (a la Klein).

    To jp: Those are all fine examples you list, so your tongue in check comment seems quite unnecessary–unless of course you are trying to get at something deeper then mockery.

    Comment by Chris Mansour — April 30, 2010 @ 3:41 am

  103. It is telling that the foremost theoretician of the new anti-globalization movement is a social democrat and not a socialist. As far as “The Nation” or groups like PDA drifting “rightward,” they are liberal magazines and never bulwarks of anti-capitalist thought (are they really “left”?). DSA was a socialist organization and continues to be a socialist organization, there has been no “rightward” drift.

    Klein’s program is worth noting and criticizing, but any experience in actual political movements would tell you that “tepid reformist programs” are where social movements often have to start. There seems to be a disconnect from reality and lack of praxis here.

    Comment by Bhaskar — April 30, 2010 @ 3:54 am

  104. Bhaskar: By definition the DSA cannot rightly be classified a “socialist organization” any more than can the Fabians be.

    In this country we have capitalist party A & capitalist party B. These 2 capitalist parties are in bipartisan unison when it comes to everything most unpopular to the public, eg, NAFTA, Wars, Bank Bailouts, etc.

    Therefore it is delusional to claim you are a “socialist organization” and then advocate electing one of those 2 capitalist parties, as the DSA has done for the democrats in every election in their history.

    Moreover, wars, unless they are civil ones wherein the expropriators are expropriated, are antithetical to socialist principles.

    Yet the democrats have prosecuted every American war in the last 100 years, except for the Panama Invasion & the first Gulf War — which really don’t count as wars since only one side was shooting.

    In all cases advocating workers to vote for democrats does not accellerate a transition to socialism but on the contrary, slows it down.

    It’s coming to grips with these facts & overcoming them once & for all that poses the biggest obstacle on the left today.

    Why something so simple is made to seem so complicated is truly a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma?

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — April 30, 2010 @ 4:53 am

  105. My main point would be that Klein’s political program is an end in itself–not a means to a larger, more desirable end (a post-capitalist society). It is true that “tepid reformist programs” can be where social movements start, but the political ideologies Klein promotes should not be the driving force of leftist politics–which it is today. Please excuse my strong language here, but I was trying to respond to Karl’s question over what I’d like to see. Overall, on a more “practical” note, I do think that the society under Klienism (excuse the phrase!) might be easier to organize towards more radical ends, as opposed to Friedmanism.

    Comment by Chris Mansour — April 30, 2010 @ 5:02 am

  106. “The Nation” or groups like PDA are examples of the ‘left’ drifting rightward, as was the kerry campaign, in which all resistance was declared futile, and most completely demonstrated in the obama campaign. Bill Fletcher is a good example of a rightward drift – here’s an ‘anti-capitalist,’ bhaskar’s favorite option, who supports obama.

    Comment by jp — April 30, 2010 @ 10:27 am

  107. I despise Platypus because I joined their reading/discussion group, being a young Marxist college student interested in intellectual conversation with like-minded individuals. Or, at least, what I thought were like minded individuals.
    What I instead discovered instead nauseated me. At their Chicago citywide meeting, the fare consisted of spending 20 minutes sneering, laughing, and making insulting remarks about the protesters who were occupying NYU at the time. It wasn’t even a helpful criticism of their tactics, it was just derogatory attacks on student activism in general as well as anarchists, even though they knew their was an anarchist in the room. Chris Cutrone, one of the editors of the review, then went on to describe a local chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, which I am active in, as local Hamas cell. When I challenged him, he backed off a little, saying their were not Hamas, but “soft Islamists”(a term he uses in his obsessive articles about Iran). After the meeting broke up, I spent another 20-30 minutes arguing with a rabid Zionist who was defending the Israeli massacre in Gaza, because all Arabs were Nazis to him, he argued. No one contradicted him or intervened on my behalf, but smiled and laughed while he stood there justifying ethnic cleansing. The conversation turned to Latin America, and one member compared Hugo Chavez to Josef Stalin. That was too much for me, I stormed off.

    That is why I hate Platypus. They are not socialists, they are not Marxists, they are not even progressive. They follow a bizarre right-wing inversion of Trotskyism. They have articles extolling the American occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq as progressive, they denounce the Cuban and Bolivarian revolutions and parrot right-wing propaganda about both of them, they dismiss all student activists as idiotic and childish, their editor has lied on camera claiming that there is no hunger in Gaza under the Israeli blockade. They claim that the Russian revolution was worthless, almost a ‘total disaster from the start'(Cutrone). From start to finish, they are anti-socialist, anti-labor, anti-Third World, racist, snobbish elitist liars, who hate the left and everything it stands for because they have convinced themselves that ‘The Left is dead’, which they chant like a religious mantra.
    And wherever they show up, and I know who they are, I will show up to expose their lies.

    And no, I am not part of the Spartacist League, and never have been. I didn’t even know who Platypus was until I joined them. So don’t trot out that excuse to brush off and ignore what I have just said.

    Comment by Barry Lyndon — April 30, 2010 @ 9:37 pm

  108. Well, Barry, I had the same reaction and nobody would ever confuse me with a Spart.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 30, 2010 @ 9:45 pm

  109. I will not get into your argument in depth because it seems that you are far more angry about the personalities of the group instead of the serious works we put out. Everyone should read our publications or listen to our fora themselves, and they will find nothing as extreme as Barry would like to paint.

    Yet, I will not let such hyperbolic comments be gotten away with here:

    “…their editor has lied on camera claiming that there is no hunger in Gaza under the Israeli blockade.”

    He said no such thing. Without denying that there is “hunger” in Gaza, he said that the poverty level in Egypt was far more daunting. However, I could not answer the question if this is true or not because I have not done the research.

    “They claim that the Russian revolution was worthless, almost a ‘total disaster from the start’(Cutrone).”

    Certainly, you should not leave it at that–what else did he say? For all those interested in moving beyond a one-liner representation of Cutrone, please refer to this writing:


    Obviously, he does not see 1917 as a lost cause, as Barry would like people to think, a profound failure that we have yet to properly digest.

    Comment by Chris Mansour — April 30, 2010 @ 10:48 pm

  110. Egyptian poverty is more daunting? What are you basing that on, quantitative results, well yeah Egypt does have more people then Gaza. Qualitatively I don’t know how youd even begin to make that argument.

    Comment by SGuy — May 1, 2010 @ 4:22 am

  111. [Obviously, he does not see 1917 as a lost cause, as Barry would like people to think, a profound failure that we have yet to properly digest.]

    Oh, yes Chris, it’s been “digested” over the last 20 years all right, but hardly “properly” — as acid reflux disease routinely plagues those analyses like a reactionary scourge, especially when it considers as a “profound failure” a land with 100 languages that went from basically 3rd world serfdom status, ravaged in utter ruins after Imperialist War, to an industrial capacity 2nd only to the USA — all in only 7 decades, that is, a persons lifetime.

    Nevermind it was compelled to expend at least 25 million lives and unfathomable treasure doing arguably 85% of the work defeating the Nazis. That gets paltry mention in the retrospectives, and rarely in context.

    Nevermind that in the hardest times it managed to provide enough free bread at times that kids kicked surplus loaves like soccer balls in the streets, or that for 70 years there was full employment & cradle to grave social security, even through the Great Depression when the rest of the world was selling pencils on street corners, & then later, after that malicious surprise attack by fascists in yet another imperialist world war, managed subsidizing material aid to the poorest or poor brown peoples’ revolutions in China, Vietnam, Angola, Cuba, Nicaragua, etc.

    Nevermind these tremendous feats were accomplished in the midst of being relentlessly victimized by the only true aggressor of the Cold War, Uncle Sam, who like a congenitally degenerate madman threatened nuclear holocaust for such mundane activities as running ships through its only warm water port, the Dardenelles, or for daring to plant a couple missiles in Cuba while 1000 missiles were already pointed at it on its border in Turkey.

    Nevermind the murderous building of capitalism thrived off of the most mindless & wasteful military expenditures used imperialistically to enslave the unorganized brown people of the world, yet, trying to defend itself, barely matching that threat, proved an utter burden & not insignificant drain to a planned economy insofar as tanks and missiles have zero use value in socialist construction & instead only needlessly robbed the State of resources that could have otherwise been used to raise the living standards & creature comforts of the toilers.

    Nevermind that every ruble the USSR was forced to spend on defending itself against Uncle Sam’s rabid arms race directly lead to the inability of the USSR to provide adequate creature comforts to Soviet workers.

    Nevermind that the USSR’s bicameral legislature enforced a constitution that guaranteed factory workers & miners a maximum of 5% of their monthly wages for rent while everybody else, like university professors, white collar stuffed shirts & bureaucrats, had to pay 10% — a resentment which played no small part in counterrevolution.

    No, on the contrary, I’d argue instead that the RELATIVELY profound success the USSR displayed amidst the enormous OBSTACLES shoved in its face, strangled with enmity & turpitude in constant imperialist encirclement shows what PROMISE the expropriation of the expropriators, that is, REAL socialist revolution has in the advanced countries that won’t face such challenges.

    Despite because of it’s considerable faults & the hideous grimaces it displyed during childbirth but despite them, I for one am humbled by the legacy of the Soviet Union. To my last breath I remain fighting proud of the heroic self-sacrifice of figures like Lenin & Trotsky, possessing in my view the greatest features of the human spirit, who surely in the long view of history will be vindicated lest the planet be ruined by environmental despoilation & political barbarism.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — May 1, 2010 @ 4:23 am

  112. Typo. That last paragraph’s 1st sentence should read: “Not because of it’s considerable faults & the hideous grimaces it displyed during childbirth but despite them…”

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — May 1, 2010 @ 4:28 am

  113. That sounds like a variant of that other “socialism from above,” social democracy. Where were the basic “bourgeois” rights present in capitalist democracies; the right to form independent workers’ organizations (oh I forgot, such pluralism is “redundant” in a workers’ state), the freedom of speech, assembly and expression. I won’t contest your points about the gains of the USSR (or its essential role in opening up space for the national liberation movements and civil rights struggles of the 20th century), but that didn’t make it–post 1923 at least– a “socialist” state. And if the goal was the worldview overthrow of capitalism then Lenin and Trotsky and the heroic masses involved in October and the German revolution, Turin upsurge, Hungarian soviet, etc. failed. Their gamble didn’t pay off, which isn’t to say it wasn’t worth making.

    Comment by Bhaskar — May 1, 2010 @ 4:33 am

  114. I read the revolution to be a “profound failure” because it never sparked an international revolution. (Was not Luxemberg, Lenin, et al. greatly counting on European countries such as Germany to break out in revolutionary struggle in order to see true success in Russia?) This, of course, is not the fault of those confined to the Russian borders, but a failure in the international Marxist movements. Never before in history has the world been so close to overcoming the fetters of the capitalist system as it did in 1917. From this moment on, revolutionary potential has only dwindled…and then comes today.

    Comment by Chris Mansour — May 1, 2010 @ 4:49 am

  115. Bhaskar: Back in, say, 1988 if you polled the women in those leaky corrugated tin shanty’s that surround the outskirts of Sao Paulo, Brazil, on which governments in the world are really “top down” — the ones that guarantee food, shelter, medicine, education & work — versus the ones that vociferously demand proclaim don’t (like the USA) — they overwhelmingly chose something much closer to the USSR for a model to emulate rather than something else that you’re imagining. (Chomsky has even articulated this point quite well.) And don’t try & bring up Scandanavia because they owe a considerable part of their “socialist” living off of the world stock market, that is, the sweat of those Brazilian toilers.

    As far as Hungary in ’56 and Checskslovakia in ’68, it doesn’t withstand scrutiny in my view insofaras there’s plenty of evidence that a not insignificant part of those movements were congealed by the same perfidious forces that were behind Poland in 1980 — demented creeps like Ronald Reagan & congenital monsters like George Bush Sr., ex-head of the CIA, both maniacal racists who viewed “freedom” as the right to ruthlessly exploit inferior peoples and “democracy” as the right to pull a lever when choosing between unaccountable monopoly oil or armaments cartels, nevermind how those disgruntled east euro workers’ complaints ultimately began with thwarted creature comforts by virtue of cold warriors like Reagan, Bush, the CIA & their military industrial complex — a parasitic anti-people excresence to their bitter core.

    Lenin & Trotsky considered the notion that “workers are always right” as absurd “workerism” — and they proved it by showing that workers were dead wrong when they mindlessly backed the Czar in WWI — one of the most mindless slaughters in human history.

    Fact: The Gdansk shipyards employed 50 million human beings over the course of 40 years. There were on-site sodapop bottling factories providing free refreshments, enormous free public skating rinks & free theaters for workers’ entertainment, and of course free day care for all mothers, just as a given, a taken for granted aspect of socialist society, to say nothing of free medicine, subsidized housing and atheist education.

    Today it employs nobody, well, almost nobody — there’s apparently a couple thousand still employed without a union by some multi-national consortium. Of course free day care, soda pop, theaters, and skating rinks, those things are history, relagated to the times when there was no “freedom & democracy” — with the assumption that workers in Poland are just as stupid as the ones in America who are convinced they “don’t need a union.”

    That’s what freedom & democracy a la Solidarnosk & Radio Free America got shipyard workers in Poland, the same as Czarist flag waving got workers in Russia back in Lenin’s time. No wonder that after Solidarnosk petered out, when the CIA dumped them like an old whore, S. Cohen, an anti-communist social democrat wrote in the Nation years ago that the Grafitti in Poland post-Lech Walensa read: “Communists Come Back!”

    It wasn’t a “gamble” that didn’t “pay off” any more than Lincoln took a “gamble” that did “pay off”. Bolshevism in Russia was a historical necessity because the alternative meant continued imperialist slaughter, just as Lincoln faced a categorical imperative because the alternative meant chattel slavery which was antithetical to wage slavery.

    Moreover, as I articulated above, Bolshevism actually did “pay off” not because of Stalinism but despite it insofar as in the long run it provided a lesson, albeit bitter, for how those women in the outskirts of Sao Paulo might make a change and hold on to it while avoiding pitfalls.

    Since when don’t slave revolts deserve a learning curve? Who among us should castigate Spartucus for declaring” “I am Spartacus!”

    Mansour: Sounds like you’d critisize Spartacus for organizing a slave revolt? Sure Spartacus was doomed but who knows in advance how history will turn out? As far as critisizing Lenin & Trotsky for failing to “spark” international revolution, that’s of course in retrospect quite true but for fucks sake man, that’s like critisizing the racoon-faced firemen in the bottom of the Titanic for not saving the ship!

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — May 1, 2010 @ 6:48 am

  116. “They overwhelmingly chose something much closer to the USSR for a model to emulate rather than something else that you’re imagining.”

    Right, socialism. You’re entire nostalgia is for the equivalent of a welfare state, whatever your rhetoric. The paternalist guarantees would certainly be a stepup for those in the developing world, a left-utilitarian Keynesian safety net here, but top-down state planning by a bureaucratic caste in authoritarian political conditions is utterly incompatible with Marxism and the self-emancipation of the working class. And please stop crediting Stalinism for the defeat of fascism. Without Stalinism and with the triumph of genuinely revolutionary currents in the Soviet Union, Germany, or Spain, there wouldn’t have been a fascism (or a capitalism around to produce it).

    Comment by Bhaskar — May 1, 2010 @ 8:35 am

  117. Excuse the typos, this is a break from an all-night attempt at a term paper.

    Comment by Bhaskar — May 1, 2010 @ 8:36 am

  118. You got it backwards. The USSR defeated the Nazis not because of Stalin but despite him. If it weren’t for Lenin & Trotsky having the cajones to stop WWI & overthrow czarism & unleash the power of socialiszed productive forces Russians would probably be speaking German in Moscow today.

    Hitler interrupted his attack on England and veered suddenly East for a reason. He became convinced after witnessing the USSR grow exponentially during world depression while everyplace else stagnated that if he allowed the USSR to complete any more 5 years plans the Soviets would be impossible to overcome in which case there could be no 1000 year reich.

    As for the notion that Stalinism was responsible for fascism you got that backwards too. As Proyect has articulated more than once, not to mention Trotsky, fascism can only arise historically as a response to the threat of the organized working class & militant trade unionism on the ascendancy. The very existence of the USSR contributed to such fear in the bones of the ruling classes that they were compelled to resort to fascism. Fascism is the face of the bourgeosie when they are running scared of the organized proletariat. That’s why Louis argues that despite all the reactionary blather about teabaggers the threat of fascism today is ludicrous insofar as there’s no viable left in the US, let alone even a viable trade union movement, hence no historical need for the ruling class to resort to fascism.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — May 1, 2010 @ 2:45 pm

  119. Actually I’m with Louis on that one, before his initial post I made that fairly intuitive case. See here: http://theactivist.org/blog/the-anatomy-of-teabagging

    And precisely my point is Benjamin’s every failed revolution gives birth to a fascism..

    Comment by Bhaskar — May 1, 2010 @ 5:30 pm

  120. Louie P. plays the same game that everyone else on the Left does – if someone even asks questions about knee-jerk Left orthodoxies, then immediately label them (pick one) followers of the Euston Manifesto, or Zionists.

    You sound like John Mage.

    Comment by kevin garner — May 5, 2010 @ 7:08 pm

  121. […] Proyect attempts to smoke out anyone who doesn’t fit into his dualistic frame of thinking here. Proyect is a friend of Richard ‘Victory to the Taliban’ Seymour. ‘Nuff said. […]

    Pingback by Principia Dialectica Magazine - » Blog Archive » ‘The conflation of global capitalism with the United States is pathetic’ Enemies of utopia for the sake of its realisation — May 14, 2010 @ 1:52 pm

  122. Well, yes, Spencer is a liar. I have been to the slums in Cairo and I know people who have visited Gaza recently, and while of course condition’s for Cairo’s poor are far from attractive, you cannot begin to compare them with the hell that people are going through in Gaza. The only conceivable reason that Spencer would say this is because he’s a closet Zionist who is trying to whitewash the Israeli occupation, as part and parcel of his lunatic ‘the-Islamists-are-the-main-enemy’ pro-imperialists schlock.

    Comment by Barry Lyndon — June 22, 2010 @ 7:33 pm

  123. Louis, this is a great post, showing why platypi are an evolutionary dead end.

    Can someone post a link to the LBO dust up mentioned? If someone already did, I missed it. Thanks.

    Comment by Nate — August 26, 2010 @ 3:52 am

  124. […] by the Platypus Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 2:26 pm Last April I wrote about Platypus, a group of young academics with Eustonite politics. I thought that I had said about all that was […]

    Pingback by Thoughts provoked by the Platypus « Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist — August 30, 2010 @ 2:27 pm

  125. […] April I wrote about Platypus, a group of young academics with Eustonite politics. I thought that I had said about all that was […]

    Pingback by Provoked by the Platypus « Kasama — August 30, 2010 @ 3:12 pm

  126. […] of mostly academic super-sectarians bent on a mission to vilify the existing left that I discussed here. Whatever problems I have with the existing left, I doubt that it would make the kind of mistake […]

    Pingback by Platypus Review publishes racists « Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist — October 12, 2010 @ 10:45 pm

  127. […] blog entry to discussing Platypus only to turn out to have nothing to say.  Back in April, he made a weak attempt to peg Platypus’ critical stance toward the existing Left as an American version of Eustonism.  […]

    Pingback by Louis Proyect is again “Provoked by the Platypus”; Again Fails to Say Anything Meaningful in Response « The Charnel-House — October 15, 2010 @ 5:55 am

  128. if publishing critiques of the Left for failing to be critical of Iran’s attack on the Left and human rights violations makes one a “Eustonite” I guess Counterpunch’s publication of this article “Admiring Ahmadinejad and Overlooking Activists” (http://www.counterpunch.org/mostofi10152010.html) makes them also Eustonites, and Louis’ circulation of it on Marxmail (http://www.marxmail.org/msg83246.html) makes him also one!

    Comment by schalom libertad — October 15, 2010 @ 7:37 pm

  129. As David Landy suggested in the comment thread below, Platypus might be the ‘Yes Man’ of the Cruise Missile left. The possibility that they mean what they say is just too sad to accept. http://jewssansfrontieres.blogspot.com/2010/10/platypus-and-deustch-pitching-to-serve.html.

    Comment by Evildoer — November 2, 2010 @ 9:59 am

  130. http://www.worldcantwait.net/index.php/features-mainmenu-220/take-action/7088-an-urgent-exchange-april-27

    U.S. Empire / Islamic Fundamentalism. Both Deadly. Is There Another Way?

    Wednesday, April 27 6:30 pm
    Tishman Auditorium, The New School, 66 W. 12th Street, New York City

    Co-sponsors: The Platypus Affiliated Society & World Can’t Wait
    Participants: Wafaa Bilal, Laura Lee Schmidt [Platypus], Sunsara Taylor

    Comment by Chris Cutrone — April 19, 2011 @ 6:29 pm

  131. […] Louis Proyect, an influential participant in the American left, has compared Platypus to the British ‘Eustonites’. The Euston Manifesto is best known for its defence of ‘humanitarian intervention’ It states that when a state violates the “common life in appalling ways” there is “a duty upon the international community of intervention and rescue” regardless of state sovereign rights. Most of these ‘muscular liberals’ have supported Western actions in the Balkans and the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. Most continue, though with increasing reservations, to back the spread of democracy through world-wide US-led interventions. The Eustonites have also rediscovered the merits of ‘anti-totalitarianism’, applied today against Islamism (in and out of power), and large swathes of the Marxist left. (7) […]

    Pingback by Platypus Versus the Weekly Worker: Negative Dialectics. « Tendance Coatesy — July 12, 2011 @ 9:38 am

  132. […] rags.  Proyect, whose feelings we hurt in some criticisms we issued back in 2010, unimaginatively tried to compare us to the Eustonite movement in the U.K.  Of course, these charges were just as vapid and groundless as the criticisms […]

    Pingback by An open letter to Jodi Dean on leftist melancholia « The Charnel-House — December 23, 2011 @ 1:10 am

  133. In the environmental movement, we have an equivalent group of faux, namely the Breakthrough Foundation and its rallying call for the Death of Environmentalism. They spend nearly all their time on revisionism – trying to erase the record of correct predictions by environmentalists and wipe away credit for anything they’ve accomplished. All in the name of real protection of the environment.

    Also: the calculation argument dates back to the time before computers, and an era when few governments had the means for good polling, let alone bureaucratic experience in using the data. In fact, its heyday was the 1920s when von Mises was pushing it. Anyone who resorts to it now is an idiot. Nor does it matter a bit (unless you’re really sold to some Marxist sect, i guess) whether Trotsky agreed it was a stupid argument or not. Its stupidity is contained within the argument. A typical market wouldn’t outperform a pocket calculator, let alone a supercomputer.

    Comment by Marion Delgado — June 4, 2012 @ 11:48 am

  134. Make that the Breakthrough INSTITUTE but whatever you call it, it’s a propaganda mill for polluters and land ravagers.

    Comment by Marion Delgado — June 4, 2012 @ 11:50 am

  135. […] on just this topic in New York City. Despite the rather harsh criticisms leveled at Platypus by respectable members of the left, and despite my own concern over their seemingly quietest […]

    Pingback by Towards a Radical Interpretation of the Present Crisis — October 31, 2012 @ 8:53 am

  136. But no anarchist experience, including that of Spain, has ever been able to surmount the contradictions of a revolution under siege.

    The sad fact is that no revolution in the twentieth century was able to surmount those contradictions. For that matter, the Spanish Republic might have prevailed if it had not been betrayed by the Russian Communists, who had themselves failed to surmount the contradictions of siege.

    The left in recent years has emerged spontaneously in places and in ways that nobody would have predicted five years ago. Thinking people will always be pushed to the left by the contradictions of capitalism and imperialism.

    What is lacking on the left isn’t life, it’s the smell of victory. That’s the only justification for the now thoroughly obsolete story about “the death of the left.”

    Comment by Joe Vaughan — November 2, 2012 @ 12:43 am

  137. […] Paul Heideman Louis Proyect here has all his usual limitations, but gives the basic flavor of the group:https://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2010/04/25/q-what-is-a-platypus-a-an-american-eustonite/ […]

    Pingback by Hysterical materialism | The Charnel-House — March 29, 2013 @ 1:34 am

  138. […] has in the past been known to provoke violent bouts of hysteria in different quarters of the dead Left. Those […]

    Pingback by Hysteria in Historical Materialism | The Charnel-House — March 30, 2013 @ 2:43 am

  139. The blogosphere is barbaric:

    > “Nagle’s account of the alt-right puts a heavy emphasis on the extent to which it emerged alongside, and defined itself in opposition to, an analogous left-wing subculture that over the last five years came to exert a powerful influence in online political discourse. . . .

    > “Like the alt-right, this brand of leftism was primarily a creature of the Internet and social media, with its most vocal supporters and critics concentrated among the young, the college-educated, and those working in the media and the academy — a small but influential population that exerts a heavy influence on the shape of online discourse. Originally, this worked to make certain pathological tendencies seem more widespread than they actually were — sectarian fights that a generation ago would have been fought out in the offices of small magazines were now out in the open for all to see.”


    Comment by cutronechris — July 16, 2017 @ 12:31 pm

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